There’s a certain amount of buzz around 3D printers again at the moment, and with some justification. The global market reached $5.6bn in 2017, an increase of 16% from the previous year with the market now seeing household company names like HP and GE driving sales, competition and innovation. But what is the next major step for this technology and for its paradigm-changing potential? Is the much-touted move into mass production a reality yet, or is it a classic example of hype and speculation masking reality? Continue reading
Tag Archives: 3D printing
Every year, our analyst teams come together to identify technology trends they see emerging in the coming 12 months. This is a collection of these across a number of different markets.
PC sales across Europe are expected to benefit from a return to growth of commercial PCs, driven by faster upgrades to Windows 10 machines across the region and the replacement of an ageing PC base in some countries. PC refreshes will drive growing sales of thin and light ultramobile notebook and hybrid devices, but will also benefit deskbound systems, as a large proportion of commercially installed machines continue to be of this type. Even in 2017, the shift in business desktop sales towards small space-saving form factors presented a growth opportunity, and this is expected to be ongoing in 2018.
Consumer sales are likely to remain challenged as users increasingly hold on to their traditional PCs for a longer period and rely on smartphones for many of their day-to-day tasks. However, sub-segments of this market – including gaming PCs, high-end notebooks and ultramobile devices such as convertible laptops – are expected to continue to grow. While these currently make up a small part of the overall market, they present strong opportunities for revenue and margin growth.
In 2018, cloudification will speed up greatly as services such as IAAS (infrastructure as a service), PAAS (platform as a service) and SAAS (software as a service) are increasingly adopted across the Enterprise sector.
An early consequence, one that has already begun, is a complete redefinition of the traditional market segmentation into server, storage and networking products. As convergence and scalability become increasingly important, enterprise systems will continue their migration from in-house systems to data centres.
Another consequence is the complete change in how products are paid for. In the past, clients purchased individual products with a one-off payment, whereas they are increasingly paying a monthly subscription for cloud licences with, in some cases, the hardware included “for free”.
The huge and increasing success of cloud providers such as Amazon Web services has left us with no doubt about the future of the IT business environment: it is already clear that, within a few years, most processing power (and, as a result, most hardware) will have left the office and migrated entirely to data centres.
Desktop monitor sales in 2018 are expected to be slower than this year, following PC-demand trends. On the positive side, however, business-targeted monitor sales may benefit from the PC refresh that is expected in the commercial space. Moreover, the rise of esports will continue to drive revenues, especially those from consumer-targeted high-end monitors. The gaming market serves a still-nascent industry, which has significant room to grow and provides a variety of revenue streams. Therefore, more monitor vendors will shift towards this market and offer a larger number of premium models. Increased demand for specialised features like 4K/UHD resolution, higher refresh rates, wide colour gamut and alternative form factors such as large ultra-wide or curved monitors, will increase average sale prices (ASPs) and margin opportunities.
Digital signage will remain a key driver for large-format displays (LFD). Standalone LCD displays will continue to hold the largest market share; however, videowalls and the direct-view LED technology currently used in various public outdoor applications will start to challenge their position. LFD vendors will direct their focus towards other emerging and untapped areas such as industrial manufacturing and BFSI*, and continue to compete in already thriving markets including the retail space – where LFDs enhance customer experience – as well as the education and corporate arenas. Increased competition between vendors and a greater variety of LFDs will result in more affordable pricing and continue to spur volume sales.
*banking, financial services and insurance
Printer hardware sales are expected to contract overall although, due to the ongoing shift towards multifunction and colour devices, some segments are expected to grow in 2018 including multifunction colour laser printers and, at a slower pace, high-capacity business inkjets.
Consolidation in the market and the transition towards a contractual business model continues, so unified platforms, security, digitisation, customisation and automation of those processes via services and solutions hold plenty of opportunities for vendors and their business partners to grow by adding value for their customers and increasing their productivity and efficiency.
In 2017, we’ve seen most vendors refresh their product portfolios and introduce even more reliable, secure devices that use various new technologies and offer lower cost of ownership and higher print speeds. Vendors continue to increase their focus on engaging with channel partners to target SMBs. HP’s acquisition of Samsung’s printing business is now complete and the company has started shipping its new A3 products. It is expected that sales of these will accelerate and increase competition in the A3 copier market – a space to watch in 2018.
HP will lead the way in seeing if industrial 3D printing of plastics can turn the same corner as metal 3D printing: away from being used just for prototyping and into manufacturing. HP is also to introduce a new technology in 2018 through which it will begin to set its sights on metal 3D printing.
As the other new kid on the block, the very visible and recognisable brand GE continues to gain share and will help push 3D printing even more into the mainstream and grow the market. GE acquired two of the top companies making industrial metal 3D printers last year and will carry on championing the technology internally as well as sell their printers to others. Their use of metal 3D Printing to make real jet engine parts continues to be the “poster child” demonstrating how 3D printing can disrupt supply chains and the $12T global manufacturing market. In 2018, they will push the boundaries further in aerospace as well as in the automotive and healthcare industries.
After seeing fewer printers ship worldwide each year for the last few years, the industrial side of the market will move back into growth thanks to new technologies (such as from Carbon) and big brands (HP, GE, Deloitte, etc.).
During 2018, we will see the emergence of a new class of low-end industrial metal 3D printing machines. While these are, of course, not for the masses (“low-end” in this context still means ~$150k), this new class includes $1M machines that will allow more companies to experiment with 3D printing in ways that were previously out of reach for most of them.
While they have not yet become a “consumer” good, desktop 3D printers have continued the unfettered growth in shipments that has been seen since the market began – it is projected to reach +39% by the end of 2017 and to continue into next year. Familiar brands, such as Kodak and Polaroid, will come to market in some regions, but this side of the market will continue to be dominated by companies like Monoprice, XYZprinting, Ultimaker and Formlabs that have a strong presence in 3D printing but are mostly unknown outside the sector.
This class of products has traditionally been defined simply as printers selling below $5K. However, growth in this sector means further refinement and stratification is needed to follow the market and the $2,500 barrier is now used to define this low end. In 2017, a new professional space emerged containing products in the $2,500 to $20,000 range (consisting of both higher-end desktop 3D printers and lower-end industrial printers). During the first half of 2017, this class grew by 64% and strong growth is also projected for 2018.
Virtual Reality & Gaming
Gaming looks to continue its healthy growth next year, with help from spectator-friendly formats such as streaming and esports – both of which provide sponsorship opportunities –gaining mind share among younger tech-savvy consumers. The recent upset over microtransactions, brought to a head by EA’s mis-steps on Star Wars Battlefront II, are symptomatic of gamers’ growing unrest about business practices they perceive as predatory, so expect rebalancing in 2018. This is unlikely to significantly depress profits but may, in the long term, lead to a healthier gaming ecosystem.
The push for 4K gaming consoles is likely to encourage an increased focus on the same potential in gaming desktop PCs, driving both display and GPU sales. Meanwhile, the recent surprise collaboration between Intel and AMD to produce integrated chips with high-end graphics capabilities feeds well into the already growing gaming laptop market, so expect the emergence of more thin, light and powerful laptops targeted at gamers.
On the VR front, 2017 ends with many new contenders entering the market and established brands teasing new hardware and this means 2018 will be a year of fragmentation for VR in the west. Whether any of these will catch the attention of the mainstream will depend on various factors, although Oculus’s imminent, lower-priced, Go is likely to be a firm favourite. As prices for high-end headsets fall and more big budget games are released, gamers are finding it increasingly easy to justify VR purchases. With luck, this will fuel a virtuous circle for both consumers and content producers.
Also, expect to see a steady flow of interesting bespoke enterprise VR applications next year, but don’t hold your breath for a single stand-out business headset or killer application – unless Magic Leap’s mysterious headset manages to make it to market and live up to the promises and hype.
Mobility will continue to gain importance and be a key success factor for retailers. Current estimates indicate that more than 50% of purchases involve the customer using a mobile phone for search, research or purchase. With online activity continuing to rise, retailers must optimise their websites for mobile in order to engage consumers early and often in their purchase journey.
Consumer expectations for omnichannel options continue to rise. The fastest-growing retail option is click to purchase and collect in store. Click and collect now accounts for more than 30% of sales in many stores, and is rising across retail in Europe. A critical success factor is the accuracy and efficiency of the collection process, with more stores having dedicated collection areas. More retailers will also collaborate with distributors for drop shipments in order to extend product range, and enable fulfilment to travel the last mile to the customer’s door.
Retailers are making up for declining unit volume sales through selling more premium devices: gaming PCs, 2-in-1 notebooks and ultramobile notebooks. A key to selling a premium mix is leveraging stores to create an experience consumers cannot get online. Successful retailers are moving beyond products and selling a larger, more profitable market basket by focusing on solutions and services that are not available online.
3D printing continues to be one of the most disruptive technologies of the era: it looks set to transform everything – age-old manufacturing techniques, hardware supply chains (why warehouse parts when you can print them on demand?), healthcare etc. Just a few years ago, the hype said everyone might have a 3D printer in their house one day, but the reality is that the technology, while ground-breaking, is still complicated. We take a look at a few areas covered recently under the 3D-printing banner in the popular press.
Can you 3D print organs?
No, you cannot 3D print organs today. There are some printers which can extrude (i.e. print) biological matter, and there are indeed research and development efforts to print human tissue, but, in 2017, these represent a very, very small portion of the $5B 3D-printer market. However, the technology is catching on big-time in other aspects of the medical world. One of the key advantages of 3D printing is that it can be used for mass customisation, meaning that one machine can make many subtly unique things. The best examples of this are hearing aids and clear dental braces, both of which have been made by 3D printers for more than fifteen years.
There are many of these items produced, and each is unique to an individual patient. Likewise, orthopaedics is a big market for 3D printing. You are probably aware that plastic limbs are 3D printed, but super-high-end metal printers are being used more and more often to make internal prosthetics as well. Hardly a day goes by without a story being written about the production of a titanium skull section or another bone being replaced with a custom-manufactured metal part. These are realities today, not just R&D projects for tomorrow.
Can you 3D print food?
Sort of. This was one of the things all the hype focused on a few years ago. Most of the printers simply extruded different pastes into shapes. True 3D printing is also sometimes called additive manufacturing (the seven core technologies referred to above are actually defined by a manufacturing body called the ASTM). Today’s food 3D printers are not really used for mass-manufacturing, and the number sold to-date is so small as to be hard to count. So the 3D printing of food is really a PR activity rather than a real market (or even sub-market).
Can you 3D print cars?
While a few companies have showcased their ability to 3D print cars, there isn’t yet a car you can buy that that is completely made this way. That said, there is hardly a car you can buy today which doesn’t use 3D printing for some element or part of its construction: the technology may have been leveraged for prototyping the vehicle at all stages of development, or – more and more often – the intricate metal components may be mass-produced using 3D printing.
The automotive industry at large is ripe to make greater use of 3D printing as the falling cost of technology and materials allows additive manufacturing to move beyond the prototyping that was once its niche application, into the much larger market of general manufacturing or mass-production.
The crossover point, where it is less expensive to use 3D printing than traditional manufacturing techniques (such as injection moulding), can be hundreds of thousands of units or, now, even tens of thousands. Mass production in the automotive industry generally refers to much lower volumes than for manufacturers of say smart phones or televisions: if you consider specific companies and their distinct models of car (many of which do not share common components), then mass production can mean tens of thousands of parts (versus millions) – a volume now viable with the reality of today’s 3D printers.
Can you 3D print buildings?
This one continues to catch a lot of media attention, especially in the Middle East and emerging markets. You can indeed use some of the techniques of traditional 3D printing at VERY large scales to, for example, extrude cement instead of plastic. To be honest, however, this is not really part of today’s 3D printing market, and with the references to “3d printing” made mostly to help describe the technique used to create structures layer-by-layer.
Can you 3D print jet engine parts?
For sure. The best use case of 3D printing today, the poster child if you will, is in GE’s jet-engine fuel nozzle. This complex, unique part can only be made by metal additive manufacturing – traditional techniques are not capable of creating such an object. GE continues to be one of the world’s biggest users of 3D printing and is so bullish about the technology that it is buying metal 3D-printing companies to make machines not only for their own use but also to sell to others. The aerospace industry as a whole is one of the largest markets for 3D printers today, with the technology now being leveraged for true mass-production of parts as well as prototyping.
This month the German footwear brand adidas announced a partnership with 3D Printer start-up Carbon for their Futurecraft 4D program, a new initiative to leverage 3D Printing to make running shoe midsoles. Last year, when first announcing their new Multi Jet Fusion 3D Printing process, HP also announced a partnership with a footwear company (Nike). The past few years have also seen various announcements from New Balance, Under Armour and a host of others. Prior to this announcement from adidas however, most companies touted their use of 3D Printing as a technology to accelerate prototyping or as an “experimental” technology, essentially just beginning to uncover what 3D Printing might be able to do for them. This announcement from adidas takes the industry one step further in that it indicates that it will begin to use the unique Carbon 3D Printing technology (and material) to produce the running soles for its new line by firstly making 5,000 pair this year and then 100,000 pair by next year.
This hits at the heart of the next hurdle for the 3D Printing industry, moving away from just prototyping and cracking more into gargantuan manufacturing industry. 3D printing excels in the production of complex parts, in one-off production, in on-demand and in “mass customization” (think hearing aids and invisible orthodontia braces both of which have been made using 3D Printing for a long time). 3D Printing has not been able to compete against tried-and-true manufacturing techniques like injection-moulding (or “molding” as I spell it) for producing say millions of smartphone cases or office chairs (and maybe never will) but for lower volume production it is now starting to make inroads into mass production.
Carbon’s CLIP 3D Printing technology is a twist on one of the original 3D Printing technologies (there are at least 7 core technologies) and is relatively new to the market. The general technology uses a laser or light source to harden a liquid polymer (plastic) resin material layer-by-layer to build a part from the ground-up (or top down sometimes). The twist on this age old technology (technically called Vat Photopolymerization) is that the Carbon printer allows for this process to be sped up considerably and allows for new materials to be used. While adidas and Carbon noted the longer term intention of offering specialized soles for each purchaser (harkening to the “mass customization” abilities of 3D Printing), what is actually more newsworthy is the mass production aspect of the partnership. As Carbon and others speed up the 3D printing process, this is BIG news in the 3D Printing industry which is definitely looking for a spark to help it move into its next phase of evolution, mass-production.
In the sub-segment of metal 3D Printing (which uses totally different techniques), great progress has already been made moving that side of the industry into production (highlighted and validated most recently by GE’s continued progress in the space) but on the Plastics side of the industry, most printers are still used principally for prototyping (or mass customization and the like as noted above). If adidas and Carbon can fulfill on their promise of producing 100,000 running shoe soles next year economically, then indeed the market will we well on its way from evolving from the $5B industry it is today into a $17B industry in the next 5 years.
According to our latest figures, worldwide shipments of 3D Printers rose +25% year-to-date (YTD) through the first three quarters of 2016 thanks again to shipments of low priced Personal/Desktop 3D Printers.
Of the total 217,073 3D printers shipped year-to-date, 96% of these were Personal/Desktop printers, carrying an average price of just under $1,000. This represents a 27% year-on-year growth for this sub-category compared to a decline in shipments of -12% YTD in the Industrial/Professional segment which saw only 7,726 units shipped through the first three quarters of 2016. While the market is still largely defined by the shipment of Industrial/Professional printers – which accounted for 78% of the global revenues – the market is clearly settling into two distinctive segments.
Vendor wise, in the Desktop/Personal 3D Printer segment, Taiwan’s XYZprinting remained the global leader so far in 2016, seeing its share grow to 22% through the first three quarters. This side of the market saw the exit by the #3 global overall player 3D Systems and the continued repositioning of the #1 global 3D Printer market Stratasys of its MakerBot line away from the lowest end.
The Industrial/Professional segment was marked by the official entrance of HP into the space but printers did not begin shipping until the end of the year. While the Industrial/Professional segment has, in general, cooled off in the past few years, the shipment of additive manufacturing devices capable of printing in metal materials was one major bright spot within this category. This Metal side was not immune to market changes in recent quarters either however, with a slow-down seen in this sub-segment as well in the 2nd half as General Electric (GE) acquired two of the top five metal making 3D Printer companies (Arcam and Concept Laser).
Projections for the full year 2016 remain reserved for the Industrial/Professional market and bullish for the Desktop/Personal market, largely in-line with trends seen through the first three quarters. Forecasts turn more bullish in the Industrial/Professional sector in 2017 and beyond as the HP and GE ramp results in a return of growth; the Desktop/Personal market is expected to continue its unfettered growth.
The mainstream curiosity for 3D printing seemed to hit its apex between 2012 and 2014: a period in which the market witnessed sizable growth with sales of personal/desktop 3D printers doubling each consecutive year. Sales subsided a little in 2015 when there was year-on-year market growth of just 33% rather than the 124% seen from 2013 to 2014. Demand remains, however, as shown by lower prices, new brands entering the market and the emergence of even lower price points. The interest in this area is especially evident from recent Kickstarter campaigns from Tiko and OLO, both of which set records and saw pre-orders in excess of 16,000 units each!
But who is buying these printers? General, at-home consumers? Surely not. To the uninitiated, 3D printing can seem novel and fun and, no doubt, some uninformed consumers have purchased devices only to be disillusioned by how hard they are to actually use. This is what separates Consumers from Makers. Makers like to tinker and “make” things (not just consume them). For example, one of the details of desktop 3D printing that is rarely talked about is the effect that the materials used have on how easy the printer is to use.
I am a maker who purchased a 3D printer over a year ago and I use my printer on a daily basis, with my usage growing all the time. Here is what I’ve learned. I purchased a delta-style FDM printer (the most popular type of desktop machine) and have come to recognize that even when considering only the various plastics suitable for material extrusion printers there is quite a variety and each operates in its own way.
Materials include nylon (very durable, but vulnerable to water), acrylics (for smaller items with much detail), PET and its derivatives (to make plastic bottles and food containers), ABS (made from petroleum products, strong and durable) and many others, such as glow in the dark plastic or even clay for making crockery. Some personal 3D printers can also create objects in “wood” which is, of course, actually a mixture of plastics and wood filament that can be melted without burning.
The most popular material for personal 3D printers is biodegradable thermoplastic PLA, produced from renewable resources such as corn. It is the best material for beginners as it sticks well to the surface of the printer’s bed (build plate), solidifies quickly, and provides fairly predictable results. I would recommend those who are taking their first steps in 3D printing use the same material until they start to get a feel for their printer. Once someone has chosen to become a 3D printing maker, learning the qualities of different materials is a priority because it is essential that the temperature, printing speed, extrusion rate, retraction distance and so on are adjusted to the correct levels for each material. Many of these adjustments can (or cannot) be done by way of “slicer” software – another nuance of desktop 3D printing that keeps it from becoming more mainstream.
FDM printers not only have different plastics that require different trial-and-error settings, but different brands’ versions of the same materials are often different (because manufacturers may use different additives, for example). The final print result may vary, even when using material from the same manufacturer, when a different colour is used.
As a result, when trying out a new material, there is always a risk of layers sagging or the printer nozzle becoming clogged. The same can happen if the wrong temperature is selected or as a result of inaccurate bed levelling. There is no WYSIWYG in desktop 3D printing, that’s for sure.
While these nuances might be quite frustrating for a general consumer, such tinkering is what makers live for. This is what makes 3D printing a hobby, which I continue to enjoy. The great variety of materials available creates a vast landscape where those who love new technologies and love to experiment can find many exciting turns and challenges and develop new skills. Here designers and engineers can implement their ideas and fulfill their ambitions – the possibilities are limitless!